Now that The X Factor hopefuls have performed at the judges' homes, it's time to take the next step: live shows. But first, each of the mentors will have to eliminate two singers from their respective teams on Wednesday (8/7c, Fox).
Who deserves to ascend The X Factor stage? Who should give their vocal cords a rest? Before Simon & Co. make their crucial decisions and the requisite tears flow, we at TVGuide.com are offering up our predictions on who will make the Top 16:
The Teens - Mentor Britney Spears
The no-brainers: Whatever unholy pact that Carly Rose Soneclar's and Diamond White's parents made before their daughters' births has paid off. OK, we kid! But still, not only do both 13-year-olds have show-stopping technical vocal ability, but they also project an almost unnatural maturity in their performances. These girls can move us, and Brit would be crazy not to push them through. Less amazing is Arin Ray, but with all the fuss that's been made of his return from last season, his Tiger Beat-worthy looks and sweet voice, the boy is a heartthrob waiting to happen.
The dead weight: Sorry, we already have more than a few cute boys with shaggy Justin Bieber-like hairdos in the competition, and James Tanner's rap skills are tepid at best. How did he get this far again?
The dark horse(s): Unfortunately, Beatrice Miller is one talented 13-year-old girl too many this season, has been inconsistent in the past and just can't eclipse Carly Rose or Diamond vocally. That said, this girl can really sing, has a twinkle in her eye while performing and a lovely, husky voice that sets her apart. The wee WannaBieber Reed Deming is also a very good, if raw, talent. Although he could crack under pressure (he was so nervous in his audition), Spears' maternal instincts hasn't allowed her to resist his eager boyish charms and baby face yet.
The Young Adults - Mentor Demi Lovato
The no-brainers: Sure, Jillian Jensen has that great emotional story — like Lovato, she overcame bullying and lives by the "stay strong" motto — but it's that voice that puts her ahead of the pack. She's felt pain, and dammit, you will too whenever she opens her mouth and lets loose. And although Paige Thomas and CeCe Frey are pretty and can occasionally wow with their vocals, it's their supposed rivalry — they did the same Whitney Houston song during boot camp and fulfill the same pop-diva niche — that makes it imperative that they both go through. Besides, annoying leopard-face CeCe is just good train-wreck television and needs a nemesis on which to focus her evil powers.
The dead weight: Believe it or not, Nick Youngerman is an even worse rapper than James Tanner. Nick aggressively, tunelessly yells songs at his audience, and in his recent version of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok," didn't even sing the melodic portions of the song. As for Willie Jones, Spears was right: He has a very pleasant lower register, but his overall performances have been distinctly underwhelming. It's not enough that he's an unusual-looking country singer; he needs to actually deliver.The dark horse(s): Jennel Garcia completely captivated us in the auditions and first boot camp task with her spicy performance style and fun, Pat Benatar rocker-chick sound. Unfortunately, at the judges' homes round, she totally choked, losing the entertaining light of her youthful convictions. Can she get up to speed in time?
The Over-25s - Mentor L.A. Reid
The no-brainers: The self-aggrandizing Jason Brock isn't just a star in his own mind; during his audition, he even convinced the judges that they were attending one of his concerts. He has an arresting, effortless voice and a mesmerizing stage quality that can't be denied. David Correy (with the Bruno Mars voice) and Vino Alan (of the Dave Matthews rasp) are both tattooed charmers with hard-luck stories and charisma to spare.
The dead weight: Ugh, Tara Simon just needs to go. Annoying, overblown, unrestrained, and did we mention annoying? Yes, it must be mentioned twice.
The dark horse(s): Both Daryl Black and Tate Stevens deliver solid, albeit rather boring, performances, and are fathers fighting the good fight for their families. In particular, Tate could fulfill that country niche that the show seems to want to fulfill so badly this season, despite a lack of real superstar talent in that genre.
The Groups — Mentor Simon Cowell
The no-brainers: For the longest time, we thought Emblem3 was the only group contender this season (Citizen wasn't ever in the game, right?) because they were given so much screen time. Despite being green and cocky, they write their own songs and present creative arrangements on covers that demonstrate actual musical ability. In contrast, the show may have decided to cobble together Lyric 145, but lead rapper Lyric Da Queen is an undeniable blinged-out-eye-patched star. Not only has she overcome a sight-stealing disease (and a subsequent freak accident after she received cornea transplants), but she blended seamlessly with the duo One4Five to create this rap juggernaut that absolutely killed a cover of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." We bow down!
The dead weight: We really wanted to like Sister C. Unfortunately, the singing siblings lack spice, expression and a pleasing tone (our dogs never howled so much!) Maybe a few years of experience are needed to temper their timbre. Worse still, we're still trying to remember who Dope Crisis is. Just say no to Dope!
The dark horse(s): The two "leftovers" groups, created because the show couldn't advance enough individual singers, actually surprised us. Only two of the boys in Playback are worth anything in the singing department, but we're talking about boy bands, so that's not a requirement. Besides, Cowell bought into their naïve charm, and the guy knows how to create boy bands! As for Lylas — wow! A lot of these girls were solo singers who deserved more than an elimination, and we're glad that they got a second chance. Most have the singing chops, and as a group, they worked well together. We're overdue for a girl group singing sensation.
Who are your favorites? Who should get cut? Who could win it all? Share your picks in the comments below.
The X Factor airs Wednesday at 8/7 on Fox.